Transparency report: Reported Code of Conduct violations for 2020
!!Con West’s Code of Conduct is a document that guides us to build a joyful, exciting, and safe community for attendees from all walks of life. If we had our way, the entire world would be as we want !!Con to model, but the reality is that we’re still learning just how to make that world; our Code of Conduct both guides us in how to act positively, and provides a set of principles to see if we have missed the mark.
This transparency report serves to keep us accountable to those goals: our attendees should use this to know that their reports will be taken seriously, and to track our community’s health year over year.
To follow on from our commitment from 2019’s Transparency Report, this year, we added a section especially aimed at speakers to our Code of Conduct. A week before the conference, we asked speakers to explicitly take an additional review of their talk content in light of these guidelines.
This year, we experimentally added an SMS service, provided by Twilio, that permitted speakers to directly reach out to organizers, even if they are not at their computers.
In 2020, we had zero reported Code of Conduct violations.
It is tempting to look simply at the number of reported violations – zero – and step directly to applaud ourselves and the community that we have built. On the balance of things, this is probably something that we can be proud of, but that’s not the case for certain. In lieu of a discussion of the reports that we did receive, then, we briefly comment on some of the reasons why otherwise-valid reports may have been missed!
There are lots of good reasons not to report a Code of Conduct violation. The simplest is that a would-be reporter was disturbed or upset by something, but thought that it did not rise to the level of making a complaint. This is fair – a report feels like a very serious step, and even conduct that may make an attendee uncomfortable enough that they might not wish to return might not rise to that standard.
Another reason why a reporter may choose not to make a report is that they do not trust that the Committee will handle it appropriately, or that they do not trust the Committee to act impartially. This is a difficult challenge; we hope that our attendees will trust us, but we can’t enforce that. We have tried to mitigate that by having an external member of the community on our Committee, and by publishing a transparency report.
Finally, a reporter may choose not to make a report because they fear for the consequences – either for themselves, or for the person about whom they would make a report. Our transparency report from 2019 discusses ways in which we found non-disciplinary actions to take that satisfied reporters, and allowed our community to grow and mature together. We publicized the transparency report, but we didn’t explicitly mention it during the conference.
For each of these reasons why a reporter may have chosen not to report a violation, we find the probability to be fairly low – but it isn’t zero. At the same time as we congratulate our audience and team on a statistically wonderful year, we acknowledge that !!Con West is a human space, and a fundamental characteristic of humans is that we make mistakes. We’d like to hear about these mistakes in the future, so that we can learn from them. In future iterations of !!Con West, we intend to consider how we can make conduct discussions more of a collaborative process to improve our community, rather than a last resort or a request for disciplinary action.
We looked to ORDCamp’s transparency report as a model for how to structure this document. Additionally, we would like to thank Maggie Zhou, who served as an external member on !!Con West 2020’s Code of Conduct committee.